Flour protein levels, a question


 Hi peoples,

I've been steadily getting better at this sourdough lark and recently produced quite a nice loaf (apologies for the colour balance, this was taken at night):


One thing I have noticed about all my loaves (about 30 so far), however, is that the crumb (I think that's the right term?) is stiffer and a bit chewier than I'd like. While it tastes great, I'd prefer a lighter, fluffier texture to my loaf, particularly since I'd like to start trying to make baguettes.

I have used both Sourdom's Pane Fesca(1) as well as Graham's recipe from the starter kit at around 70% hydration. As the weather has changed proofing times have dropped from 14 hours to 3 hours which has been fun!

For the starter I have used both wholemeal and white starters (at 100% hydration) ranging from 20-40% in the recipe and for the rest of the flour I use plain white. The flour I use is Kialla's Organic white unbleached plain flour with a rated protein level of 13% or higher.

So, is it the protein level in the flour that is causing this stiffness? Does anyone have any sugestions as to how I can create softer, fluffier loaves and hopefully baguettes?





352 users have voted.


Millciti's picture
Millciti 2011 September 27

Sourdough yeasts do love potato starch..!! My starter yeasts truly go wild when I give them some left over mashed potatoes or the potato water from boiling potatoes.  AP and whole wheat pastry flour are generally lower protein content - but if you are looking for fluffy light bread these may not help.  You may not want to use only lower protein flour - but some lower protein flour may be helpful. 

My search and experiments to create a true baguette continue... Sigh:(  

Most writers/bakers that are successful with baguettes, still use a hybrid approach.  I think a lot is dependent on the types of yeasts that are present in your particular starter.  I have considered using a poolish with a tiny bit of Sac C but hate to buy a whole pack of yeast that I will never use.

I just bought Berninet's book "Crust" and he has several versions of baguettes - but again all use commercial yeast in some form.  The problem with an all sourdough baguette, has to do with what makes sourdough great - time. True baguettes are a relatively short timed bread.

The time needed to impart that great sourdough flavor in the bread changes the structure of the bread.  So anything that makes your starter happy and speeds things up may be the answer.  Will the result be a true Baguette? Probably not, but a light crusty baguette shaped roll, doesn't sound half bad!


Hope this helps - Terri... 

Humm... This is making me want to go bake!



whitecrow 2011 September 27

I had the same problem!! A nice looking bread but a rather chewy crumb.  Then I read from Susan at Wild Yeast (here's the link http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2008/06/23/flour-101/) where she said that high protein levels made for tough bread. 

"There’s another reason more protein is not always better. More protein means more gluten, and more gluten means a tighter and chewier bread. This may be desirable for pan sandwich breads and bagels, but for most lean hearth breads where you want a more open crumb, a more moderate level of protein is best. I look for a flour that has between 10.5% and 11.5% protein. This is lower than many flours labeled “bread flour.” (King Arthur Bread Flour, for example, has about 12.8% protein; it’s milled from spring wheat.)"

 So I stopped using Kialla Mills Organic Unbleached White at 13% protein and switched to Coles unbleached organic white at 10.8% and my bread is absolutely stunningly wonderful.  My blog is at thirtyminutes.typepad.com - take a look at that crumb.  My eureka moment about the lower protein is there too!


Bread crumb at lower protein level

breadhead223 2011 September 28

I've come to realize that all naturally levaned sourdoughs (no commercial yeast added), rely on stronger wheat.  Because they produce less volume, they need more structure.  If you add yeast, consider this the following:


I typically create my sourdough formulas with 20% prefermented flour and use a blend of 60/20 blend of a stronger bread flour with a softer wheat flour, respectively.  This way, I get a nice flavor from my sour, retain the dough's structure, and soften the crumb.  However I will usually add 0.1% yeast if I'm using grains or whole flours.


Hope I could help.



snuffpuppet 2011 September 29

 Thanks guys,

Some great responses.



Much as I hate supporting the supermarket mega conglomerates I'll pick up some coles organic and work from there. I'm in conversation with a few different australian milling companies to see if they have a suitable product so hopefully I can source some from a reputable miller.



Thanks for the blending tips. I had thought about that myself (Kialla do an organic cake flour at 8-9%) so I might give that a go too and do a taste comparison.


Margie, LumpyNose, Milliciti:

Never thought of trying potato starch or water. Sounds like some interesting experiments ahead!




whitecrow 2011 September 30

Hahah! I too hate to support the chain supermarkets, so was sorry this was the best I found!!! You could look at White Wings, they have an unbleached organic white, but I can't remember it's protein level, although they too may fall into the category of 'large conglomerates'!!! Let us know if you do find a lower protein flour from an Aust miller, I'd be interested in not using Coles....  thanks!

mozzie 2011 October 5

The local Coles usually have Laucke Wallaby - the label says 11.5% protein (but I suspect that an estimate), which works well for me. I do both sourdougn and a preferment with commercial yeast.

On occasions, I've used a small proportion of potato (usually leftover mash or roast potato) - it gives me a softer crumb and excellent oven spring, especially when the breadflour runs out and I have to use plain flour. I'd say try it - you might like it.

Potato was part of the baker's repetoire - I read somewhere, probably in Elizabeth David's book, that it was known in the trade as "fruit".

panfresca 2011 October 5

As well as the good suggestions here, adding a small amount of oil can soften the crumb, plus extend the shelf life. I've taken to adding about a tablespoonful of extra virgin olive oil, and I like the results. At that level there is no olive oil flavour in the loaf. Other oils, butter or milk will have the same effect.

I do also add potato sometimes too - the easy way to do this if you don't have any leftover potato or potato water is just to add potato flakes, the sort made for instant mashed potato.

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